March 2016

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March 16, 2016

Dear family, friends, and supporters;

Beginning next week, we will be living in N’Djamena for a couple months to oversee the administration of our facility up there and let the regular administrators take a well-earned vacation to the USA. Before leaving, however, we thought you would enjoy hearing something of our life in Kwongland these last couple months. The following essay (yes, you might want to print it out on a piece of paper and sit in a comfortable chair) tells a story of our recent travels, but it also conveys something of our own longings for the Kwong church. We hope you enjoy it.

Your fellow servants,   Mark and Diane

Newsletter Essay: “Work while it is yet day”

The road to Mobou was long and difficult – more than three hours to cover 70 miles, and all that to end up just 30 miles from where we started. The deep sand, high RPM’s of the engine in 2nd, and 110 degree temperature conspired to overheat the engine, forcing us to make much of the trip without AC. It was the fourth such trip we have made in the last month or so, and the longest. We were glad when it was over.

Our mission was to visit four Kwong churches in and around Mobou and make the same two cases to them that we had already made to 12 other churches, and will yet make to another 12: First that they have been blessed with a large part of the Scriptures and an extensive corpus of teaching materials in their language. A camping cot set up in front of them and almost completely covered with the various publications we have produced in Kwong served to underline the point. And second, that in a little over a year, they would be blessed yet again by the opening of a Bible school in their own language. We appealed to them to take advantage of the blessings Providence has bestowed on them.

We were not “humble” as we made these cases to them. Concerning the printed materials – most of which have also been adapted to radio for the sake of those who can’t read – we pointed out that we have gone the extra mile several times over to make their personal study and public preaching rich and informed. While all the other Scripture translations of Chad (to our knowledge) have contented themselves with minimal footnotes concerned only with variant renderings of the translation, we have been producing a veritable study Bible with copious footnotes to illumine the text. While most of the Scripture translations of Chad consist of just the New Testament, we have insisted that deep spirituality is difficult, not to say impossible, without the Psalms, and have published a third of them already – to be completed eventually, Lord willing, in their entirety, along with Genesis (already published), Deuteronomy, and Isaiah. Also, realizing as we have, that putting a sermon together is not, alas, every pastor’s gift, we have put 127 of them together in the form of a discipleship series stretching from Genesis to Revelation which we call “Lessons of the Kingdom of God.” Yes, we have not been minimalists in our ministry to the Kwong, and we were not embarrassed to say so.

Concerning the Bible school, we were similarly bold. While we are no doubt pleased that we can offer our students the first rate facility we are building – something most vernacular Bible schools don’t have –  and while we are the only vernacular school in Chad to our knowledge which will have a missionary – our colleague Larry Gray – to bring decades of experience and a passion for personal discipleship to the classroom, what we really took pride in as we presented our school to these churches for the first time is that we are offering it to both aspiring pastors (the traditional clientele), as well as to elders. These latter are, in our estimation, essential to ensuring the longevity of the 28 churches among the Kwong. Pastors come and pastors go, and some are good and some are not so good, making the fortunes of any given congregation a dicey proposition. More than once we have seen a bad pastor torpedo a church in a matter of months – and it isn’t like the faithful can just church-hop to another congregation down the street. There isn’t any. They just disappear into the pagan ether – often for good. But the permanent presence of trained elders in these little churches can give them the stability they need. As it turns out, this was a big selling point to the young men in our audiences, since the career of pastor is not a particularly desirable vocation – being as it frequently is a sentence to a life of poverty (they are often paid $3 to $5 a month by their congregations) and instability (there is a tradition in Chad of transferring pastors willy-nilly from one church to another in a most disconcerting manner, such that they never have any stability in their lives, never mind develop an intimate acquaintance with their flock).

We concluded by pointing out to them that 2016 marks 25 years that Mark has been among the Kwong, and that both of us being 52 years old, we have only 15 years at best remaining among them before retirement. We told them as frankly and graciously as possible that their response to the Scripture and discipleship materials we have produced has been underwhelming - to their own great loss. We urged them to “work while it is yet day” – because the day will soon come when we will no longer be with them.

We made our case, and were well received. Now all we can do is wait and see whether their expressed enthusiasm for the Bible school is matched by the students which each of these churches will hopefully send to it. This school is our last best hope for stimulating the kind of maturity in the Kwong church which we originally hoped the Scriptures and Kingdom of God materials would produce, and then subsequently hoped the radio station would catalyze. It would not be fair to the Kwong, nor indeed to ourselves to suggest that these efforts have had no effect, for they have. It is not insignificant, for example, that over the past year our churches have filled to overflowing with young adults – the first generation to grow up listening to the radio. But these efforts have scarcely nudged the Kwong ecclesiastical juggernaut which we inherited and which more than anything has the wherewithal to carry forward our efforts once we leave. We are hoping – desperately hoping – that by training up a new generation of pastors and elders, and imbuing them with an appreciation for the volumes of materials we have produced for them,  we can make the Kwong church a blessing for generations of Kwong believers to come.



Meeting with the church at Kasaray, near Mobou. They lost half their congregation to a slick new denomination out of Nigeria of dubious orthodoxy.


Meeting with the elders at Mobou-Koussou. Mark’s text from Acts 17 concerning the believers at Berea who “received the word with all eagerness” was eminently appropriate for this church.


Diane with the ladies at Marchama. The women of this church bought considerably more books than the men.  


Navigational aids. Mobou is situated just outside the big new oil field which the Chinese have developed. All the old roads have been replaced by new “oil roads”. Here the guys at Mobou-Ngegin make us a map in the sand.


A couple  weeks ago we poured the last structural concrete on the Bible school building. We are hoping some guys will come out from the States in July to help put the roof on. Contact us if you are interested.

The Flip Side

The blessing of young men and women in need of discipleship

As we mentioned in the essay, an unprecedented number of young adults have filled our two churches here in Chageen. We have asked our Kwong colleagues the whys and wherefores of this phenomenon and they are as unsure of the causes as we. However, it might be significant that the Voice of Chageen has been a part of these young men and women’s lives 5 days a week, morning and evening since about the age of 10. The other thing, which is significant for the church in our front yard (though not for the other church), is that many of these same young people are alumni of our efforts at teaching Sunday School with Papa Jonas over more or less those same 10 years. Again, it is hard to connect the dots, but it may not be coincidental.

The discouraging thing in all this is that despite our urgings on the pastor and elders, no one is seeing this as an incredible opportunity for discipleship. The pastor just turned it back on us with the “it would be great if you could do that” line – forgetting that Mark is up to his eyeballs in trying to get the Bible school going and Diane has her hands full with malnourished babies, and both of us are trying desperately to make some modicum of progress on the Bible translation, never mind that this is, after all, their church! Pray for these young people.

Sunday School – help at last!

Speaking of Sunday school, just about when we thought one more week of just the two of us teaching upwards of 80 kids would completely take the stuffing out of us, along came help. Richard was substituting for us while we travelled, and then showed up to teach when he didn’t get the memo that we were back. Being opportunists, we pounced on him, made him teach notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary, saw tons of potential, and insisted he stay. Meanwhile, Siya Kumoyn (“Adore God” in Kwong – now that’s a name!) showed up more or less by accident the same Sunday. We had been trying to groom him to the task for over a year (he was like the 3 or 4th person we attempted that feat with), but consistency wasn’t his strong suite, making him almost useless. Anyway, something about the psychology of a foursome won him over and he has been there almost every Sunday since. We are working on burnishing Richard and Siya Kumoyn’s rather rough-hewn child-teaching skills, and they are doing great. We will soon have worked ourselves out of a job (assuming we can somehow keep the all-important foursome thing going). And oh yes, since these guys came on board, there are now about 120 kids each Sunday. (There were about 15 kids when we started 10 years ago.)


Mark and Diane Vanderkooi

serving with the Evangelical Alliance Mission  

  P.O. Box 1986 Grapevine, TX 76099-1986 800-343-3144

Our cell phone in Chad:  011-235-66-47-92-32





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